I will say a few words on chapter 8, which we did not quite finish last week. We considered the three subjects it contains. First, The living work wrought in us connected with no condemnation. Second, Not merely the work that is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, but the presence of the Holy Ghost Himself in us, as distinguishing between that which is born of the Spirit, and the personal indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Third, Not only what God has wrought, or is in me, but what God is for me in His outward operations.
It is the third point which forms the subject of the closing part of chapter 8, which omits the work in us altogether, and brings forward the security, that is to say, what God is for us; which introduces the sovereign power of God acting in grace for us— “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” In this passage, sanctification and the whole work of the Spirit is therefore omitted (while it is fully brought out in other parts of chapter 8) and the apostle turns to God’s foreknowledge, and what He is and does for them whom He foreknew. And mark, the foreknowledge here is that of persons: it is not said “what he foreknew” in them, or that, because of that, they should be predestinated; but “whom he did foreknow, he has also predestinated to be conformed.”
In verse 29 we see what the wonderful thought of God about us is, that we should be conformed to the image of His Son. There is a spiritual conformity, even here, in the saints; but it does not stop at spiritual conformity, for the predestinating purpose of God was to conform them to Christ Himself. In the wonderful purpose of God He had set up the man Christ Jesus, in whom He took all His delight, in His presence in glory. Looking then at Christ as the second Man, we find that He has sanctified Himself, set Himself apart as the One to whom we are to be conformed. He has gone up into glory, and has sat down at the right hand of God, before the church is gathered; and although we do not yet see all things put under Him, we see the Man Jesus crowned with glory and honour. Now, “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly”; for God’s wonderful thought about us is, not only to bring us into His presence, but that our very bodies even should be conformed to the likeness of the glorious body of His dear Son, “that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” For, as I have remarked before, it is not exactly the church, as a body, that is presented in Romans, but the individual relationship of the saint with God. As the brethren of the Lord Jesus, God has not only foreknown them, had His purposes and thoughts about them, but God has called them, and, through grace, they have listened. God called them—they became partakers before Him in blessing—not by ordinances, nor yet by descent, but by His calling them; and here comes in another feature of God’s character—the activities of His own love in calling souls out of this evil world. “Whom he called, them he also justified”; for if God had foreknown these people, He has called them; not to reject them—God Himself has done it; for I am not only justified before God, but it is God that justifies me. He will not have us in His presence with one sin upon us. It is His doing, to have us with Himself according to the purposes of His love and the holiness of His nature. If I am justified in His sight, it is God who justifies me, according to the perfectness with which He does everything. He speaks of it as a great fact (the inward working being left out here), as the wondrous basis on which He rests this justification—it is on what God is, and in His own work. Indeed, it is observable in a most remarkable way all through this Epistle, how everything is made to rest on what God is. Man having been tried in every way, without law, under law, under grace, is brought out and proved to be good for nothing: then God comes in and acts in His own sovereignty, according to what He is. This shuts out the possibility of anything whatever, be it sin or Satan, coming in against us—God is for us. This is the grand result which the soul discovers, and the Holy Ghost reasons from. The heart may argue, Why then am I finding all this tribulation if He so loves me—if He be for me? But faith interprets the tribulation by the certainty of God’s being for us, and is more than conqueror. Everything is made to rest on what God is; on this great leading truth, proved in His sovereign ways to us as sinners, ways rehearsed in the preceding verses, which shew what God is for us; and if God be for us, who can be against us, for who can put himself in competition with God?— “is not this a brand plucked out of the burning?” If you ask a proof of God’s being for us, the proof is, He gave His Son. If I come to God, and say, What will He do for such a wretched sinner as I am? why, He has done more than the greatest sinner can ask, more than the greatest saint could think of, for He has given His Son for me; therefore, not only have we done with everything that was against us—Satan, every accuser—but the very sin that made me tremble, becomes a witness of the extent of the love of Him who is “for us.” There it is I have learnt it: for He has shewn Himself for me in justifying me. But if God be thus for us about our sins, we may count freely for all the rest. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?”
The Spirit never (as before remarked) reasons upwards from what man is, but downwards from what God is as known in grace in Christ. Thus God being for us, we are entirely free from the possibility of any charge being brought against us; for “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” And mark here, that it is not the elect merely, but that it is God’s elect. Well, but the soul says, this may all be very true, but how many things I have to meet; there is life before me and all its cares, the trials of the world, and death before me; how can I reconcile all this? if God be for me, how is it that I have all these things against me? We get the answer to all this in the application of Christ’s love to all our present circumstances. It is not merely the immense truth that God is for us, which the Holy Ghost puts before us; it adds, that Christ is for us, who came down into all these trials even unto death; as it is said, “Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again”; therefore, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” He not only says that nothing shall separate us from the love of God, but he brings it down to our daily weakness, saying, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long”; that in all these daily trials in the world, we might be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
But you say, How can this make trials seem for us? Why it is not only that I have got the victory, that “we are more than conquerors,” but we have Christ with us in the combat, who loved us enough to die for us, and has overcome death. All that might pretend to separate me from this love is the demonstration in detail of the interest this love of Christ takes in me. If you say, But Christ is too high up to help me down here; He is up there at God’s right hand. Yes, blessed be God, the very Christ that died is risen again, and is at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Because He lives I shall live. But if you ask, Will not death separate me from the love of God? No; Christ died and is risen again. “Things present”—can they? No; for in these everyday trials I learn His love. “Things to come”? No; they are all met by Christ: as regards difficulties here, He has overcome the world; as regards another world, things to come will be my participation in His glory. “Principalities and powers”— can they? No; they are but creatures at best, and no mere created being can be stronger than God. God is the source and the power of the blessing; and the One who went down under the power of death and Satan, though He could not be holden by it, is now risen again, and is at God’s right hand in heaven making intercession for us, and by the power of the Holy Ghost brings home the blessing to us, in every detail of daily life. Thus has God completely shut us up—just as Noah was shut up in the ark, and floated over all the trouble; Noah went into the ark, but it was God that shut him in.
The great secret in the Epistle is, that man is reduced as low as he possibly could be, that is, to his own real level, being proved to be everything that is bad, feeble, and good for nothing; and then God comes in in grace, and says, That is what God is for you; and this gives the heart quietness, and sets the conscience in full liberty, in virtue of the resurrection of Jesus, and closes it up from all questionings by shewing that that on which it rests is outside man altogether—based on the stability of God Himself; and brought out in the work and Person of Christ; though a real work be wrought in the soul to enable it to enjoy it. God is in us, and for us, and has brought down everything to meet our daily need in Christ; and we can only adore, and wonder; and yet it ceases to be wonderful when we see it is God’s doing: we know He must do something superlatively great to shew the exceeding riches of His grace; what He does returns up to Him again in adoration and praise: yet goodness, acting in its own sovereignty, must do something which is above all praise. As in Psalm 84, where we get the double blessing, “blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they will be still praising thee.” In the house— there where God is—is the first and proper blessing; there there is nothing but praise. Then, “blessed is the man whose strength is in God”—the strength needed by the way—“in whose heart are the ways of [that is, the way to] God”: for having learned grace here, we shall learn glory there. Let us now turn to chapter 9.
The first thing in the Epistle to the Romans is, that the apostle reduces man to his true level as a sinner, whether under or without law; and this is met by the bloodshedding spoken of in chapter 3. Then chapter 4 brings out faith in God who raiseth the dead—not my working to meet God, but believing in God who had come in with power and raised the One who was under the power of death and set Him at His own right hand. In chapter 5 we get this faith applied to justification; the results of His being delivered for our offences and raised again, are given—we are saved; thus assured of love we are able to joy in tribulation, and, the grand result of all, in God Himself. In chapter 6, we are dead to sin. In chapter 7, dead to the law: and in chapter 8, we have the full liberty of the Christian. Chapter 8 being the summary of the whole Christian position, the result for the believer of the work of God in grace. God acting in the power of His love, brings us into His presence in the Person of Christ; being justified we get liberty, and God, in His own sovereign power of grace shuts us up in the ark—I mean, in Christ—in the security of His own grace. But then comes in a difficulty: what becomes, not merely of the broken law, but of the special promises made to the Jews? If Jews and Gentiles are thus reduced to one moral level, how are we to reconcile the fact of the unconditional promises made to the Jews, such as those made to Abraham in Genesis 15, 17 and 18? This difficulty is met in chapters 9, 10 and 11.
In chapter 9, the apostle speaks of the absolute sovereignty of God. The potter may do what he pleases with the clay. The question is, not what God has done, but His title to do what pleaseth Him. The close of chapters 9 and 10 brings out how the Jews’ own prophets had forewarned them of what would come to pass. It was a known scriptural thing, Israel’s failure and consequent rejection. But though it is the will of God to deal thus with them, He will never give them up; as we see in chapter 11, that Israel are still God’s beloved earthly people.
The sovereignty of God being asserted does not affect the apostle’s love to Israel; as he says, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart: for I could wish myself accursed,” or, “I have wished myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”; for this is the force of verse 3; that instead of despising his brethren, a charge the Jews were perpetually bringing against him, the real impulse of his heart had led him—not in cool reflection, for the thing was impossible, but in the earnestness of his soul in love to them—to express a feeling that never could be accomplished indeed, though spoken in earnestness, but which proved that Paul loved them quite as much as Moses ever loved them, and was willing, as far as affection went, to be like Christ, an anathema “for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh.”
Here you see the power of divine love, which is willing to be and do anything and everything for those whom it would serve. It seeks all the good it can find in its true object— affection must do so; though the same affection may make it earnest in reproof. Just as the same Paul says to the Corinthians, who were convicted of sin not found among the Gentiles, “I thank my God on your behalf, that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of the Lord.” Yet when he visits them, he will not spare; he will come with a rod. He gets at their consciences by opening their hearts to their privileges, and then he can rebuke them, when the will has been broken down by the sense of the love. You will be ready to say yourselves, However can such a favoured people act thus? And they felt that if he had not been forced to rebuke them, he would never have rebuked them at all; and thus what he said came home with additional weight and power on the conscience. So here Paul speaks to them of all that he can, “Ye are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, and the covenants.” Do not you suppose that I want to undervalue your promises: I hold them up. You Israelites do not value them as you ought, you do not know them; you do not know that you have God over all, blessed for ever, for your Messiah.
It is thus, I believe, we should deal with poor Jews now. “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.” For a time, indeed, they are set aside as a nation, in order to reconcile the world; and they are considered in their nature and condition of sinners as levelled to the condition of the Gentiles, the apostle having proved in chapter 3 that they are both alike under sin. But here the apostle reconciles the fact of the unconditional promises made to the Jews, with this doctrine as to their common sinfulness with the Gentiles, and he proves that they will have the promises in a much higher way than they could have had them at first; and while bringing both Jew and Gentile alike under sin, he raises up God above His promises (though He will accomplish them, of course, though Israel had forfeited all title to them, for it had rejected them when their accomplishment was presented in the Person of Jesus), and shews Israel from their own history that they must leave God to His sovereignty, or else they must lose their promises; and then that in the exercise of this sovereignty He will let in the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. They would have them by descent, which, of course, excluded the Gentiles. If, says Paul, you Israelites will take your promises by descent, we will just see what comes of it. You say, we be Abraham’s seed, and have a right to the promises by descent; for these Gentiles are but dogs, and have no right to share with us in God’s promises. Well, if God has His sovereignty, He will in grace let in these Gentile dogs. But now I will prove to you that you cannot take the promises by descent. In the first place, “they are not all Israel which are of Israel”; yet if it is by descent you must take in all Abraham’s seed. And if you take in Abraham’s children, then you must take in Ishmael—those Arabians. Oh no, say they, we cannot allow that; what! Ishmaelites in the congregation of Israel, and heirs of promise? Yes, if by descent. If you do not take it by descent, you must take it by grace; and if it is by grace, God will not confine this grace to you, but will exercise it toward the Gentiles.
But now, to go further down in your history,57 and then you have Jacob and Esau; and if you go by descent, you must let in the Edomites by the same title as yourselves. But in verses 8, 9, it says, “the children of the promise are counted for the seed”: so that it must rest on Isaac and Jacob, and Ishmael and Esau remain outside; therefore your mouth must now be closed as to descent, for your mouth is bound up by God’s saying, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” He has chosen, according to His sovereign title, to bless you, and on that alone your blessing depends; as your own history shews, your own prophetic testimony proves, you cannot rest it on a mere title by descent. But is there then unrighteousness with God? for such is the natural objection of the flesh. No: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” If we begin to ask, Is there unrighteousness with God, as really calling Him in question, we are seeking to judge God, instead of God’s judging us. Whenever the sovereignty of God is called in question, it is the soul saying, in effect, I am to judge God, and not that God is to judge me. But further, see how their mouth is stopped; for when did God say, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy”? When every Israelite had lost all title to everything God had to give, then God retreated, if I may use the expression, into His own sovereignty, that He might not cut them off. Israel did pretend to take the ground of righteousness, as in Exodus 19, and what followed? The golden calf was made. Was God to share with the calf in having them as a people? No: by this, the very first link that bound them, that nearest to God, was broken; by this act Israel had forfeited everything; they had cast off the promises, which they had accepted on the condition of their own obedience (Moses might have had them) and the God that had made the promises, and who alone could fulfil them. Could God overlook this sin? Israel had undertaken to have the promises by their obedience; if God had dealt with Israel in righteousness, every one must have been cut off. What could God do but retreat, as I said, into His own sovereignty? There He had a resource; for if any of them are to be spared, it must be in this way of mercy. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Man is entirely lost, so now God says, I will act for Myself. Taking a truth in connection with all other truth gives it its right and proper place, and its own divine force. Turn now to Exodus 19, 20 and 21. Israel undertaken to have the promises on condition of obeying all that God would command. God had said, “If ye obey my voice”; they answer, “all that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” But before Moses came down, God tells him, “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them, they have made them a molten calf, and had worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto”; then, “the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiffnecked people; now, therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them,” Exod. 32:8-10. Then Moses says, “Forgive them their sin.” Here the mediator is brought in, a figure, of course, of the true Mediator. Moses goes up to make an atonement for them; “Peradventure58 I shall make an atonement for them.” But let us see the effect of his mediation. First, God says, in chapter 33:3, “I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people; lest I consume thee in the way”: but “I will send an angel before thee” (v. 2). Then in verse 7, “Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp”: then in verse 13, Moses says to God, “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight; and consider that this nation is thy people.” And God replies, “My presence shall go with thee”—not with the people, but with the mediator. And then God proclaims the name of the Lord to the mediator, at the same time bringing out this principle, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” When Moses pleads with God for Israel, notwithstanding all their departure from God, yet Moses identifies them with God, and says, “Thy people which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt”; while God calls them the mediator’s people. Remark here, in passing, one thing most beautiful to observe: God, after first threatening to consume them, by coming up into the midst of them in a moment, (chap. 33:5), had said (ver. 3), “I will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiffnecked people.” Yet Moses says in chapter 34:9, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go up amongst us, for it is a stiffnecked people.” Grace had come in in the interval, God’s goodness had passed before him. This changed all; and the people being so stiffnecked, Moses says, we cannot do without God; so that Moses, when once the foundation of grace is laid, makes the very condition of the people, which would have led God to consume them, or at least not go amongst them, the reason for God’s going up amongst them. It is a question of who is to go up; therefore Moses says, Do thou, O God, go with us. Grace had come in and therefore he could say to God, Go with us; thus bringing in God for us. The moment grace is brought in, even in the way of government (and here the question is one of government), we feel that our very sinfulness is a reason why the presence of God cannot be dispensed with.
We will now turn again to the subject of descent. We have seen Paul saying, If you Jews will have the promises by descent, then you must let in the Ishmaelites and Edomites; and, on the other hand, if you say you will have them by righteousness, you know that if God had dealt with you in righteousness there would not have been one of you here at this moment; say now (and you, my reader, ask yourself the question), will you be willing to be dealt with in righteousness? No, you would not; then do not you talk about it, until you can go to God on that footing. But if, says Paul to Israel, you still say, We will have the promises by righteousness, the golden calf has proved, at the very outset, that you cannot have them on that ground, and that your mouth must be for ever closed. But if you have such a conviction of sin as stops your mouth about righteousness, and so excludes all boasting, you will rejoice in the “mercy “and “compassion “of God, who retreats into His own sovereignty, that He may know how to spare; because in this sovereignty He can shew mercy. If I am convicted in my heart of sin, I shall be glad enough to hear of grace, be it ever so sovereign: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” God is not bound up to righteousness; He can shew mercy, and “whom he will-he hardeneth.”
Turn now to Pharaoh’s history. “The scripture saith, for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” And here, I would say, I do not wish to enfeeble or escape the full plain sense of this passage, because it has been made a doctrinal question. There is a hardening in certain cases. It is impossible that God can make or tempt a person to be wicked; but He can harden, and give up the sinner judicially to blindness. I would here speak with reverence; but the scripture is very plain. Mark God’s ways, and first with the natural man, and how it ends. See Romans 1. After giving a long detail of wickedness, he says, in verse 24, “wherefore God gave them up to a reprobate mind to work all uncleanness.” In verse 25, “they changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” “For this cause God gave them up to vile affections.” And then in verse 28, “even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” Now in all this history, it is to be observed, that God does not make man wicked, but simply gives man up to what he is. Again, of Israel God says, “make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes.” And so with professing Christians in this last dispensation of mercy, “Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” It would be a horrible blasphemy to say that God made them wicked. But those who received not the love of the truth were judicially sent strong delusion. And here, observe, it is not said that God fitted the vessels of wrath to destruction, but “what if he endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”; that is, after long sufferance, God makes an example of what righteous judgment is; as He says to Pharaoh, “even for this cause have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee.” And in effect says, Now you shall see who Jehovah is; for Pharaoh had said, “who is the Lord, that I should obey him?” “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will?” That is not your business to inquire; you are but a man, and yet you are replying against God! shut your mouth, for God gives no account of His matters to man. The first of all justice is, that God should have His rights; and if God have not His rights, who ought to have, who shall have? It is morally important that you should take your place, and leave God His place; you are but a mere man, and therefore it is not your place to be replying against God; you are to hold your tongue when God speaks.
But further, it is not said that God has made any vessel to dishonour: but “hath not the potter power over the clay, to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour?” Of course the potter has power to make what he pleases; but if we do not let God have His right and proper place, who is to set things in order when sin has brought in disorder? The mark that a soul is right, morally right, is saying, I am a sinner, deserving everlasting destruction, and all my trust is in sovereign goodness. Faith says, I was bringing on myself “swift destruction,” but God’s grace stopped me; this is taking my true place before God. It is always seen (even in those systems which differ in this) that individual faith feels and acknowledges itself to be a debtor to sovereign mercy alone. But again, “hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour?” Now, in this passage, though we have strongly asserted the absolute title of God to do what He pleases, it is not said that He made any vessels to dishonour; but the passage simply asserts His prerogative, His title to make of the same lump what He pleases, and that unqualifiedly and fully. But God does bear with these wicked men, as He said to Israel, by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, “thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities” (chap. 43:24). Then again by the prophet Amos, “behold I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves” (chap. 2:13). Thus God “endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” willing to shew His wrath and make His power known. But when speaking of mercy, the apostle instantly brings God in; “that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” It is moral dealing here, and not mere cold barren doctrine. We see how God deals with these vessels which He had afore prepared unto glory, and then how He endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. And again, mark, that it does not say that these vessels of wrath were afore prepared for destruction, neither does it merely say that the vessels of mercy were fitted unto glory. No; for the vessels of mercy were afore prepared of God unto glory, while the vessels of wrath are fitted to destruction by their iniquities having come to the “full.” But whatever there is of good must come from God, and God only; the evil, alas! is already in us. But if the question still be put, Why has God been bearing with this wickedness, and only at last shewn out His wrath in those vessels fitted to destruction? The answer is, that after He has proved the ways of men, and shewn all shut up under judgment, He then comes in with mercy, sovereign mercy; and so the apostle applies it. Cannot He then let in the Gentiles? Surely; for if God is setting up vessels of mercy, He can prepare a Gentile as well as a Jew. If the Jews, in their folly, arraigned God’s sovereignty—very well, says the apostle, let them have righteousness, and where then will they be? and having proved that law and descent have both failed as a title, he shews, if you Jews will not let in the Gentiles, you must yourselves be shut out. For if they will not bow to God’s sovereignty, let them take Sinai, where they have lost all title to all the promises, and are thus necessarily thrown on the ground of God’s doing what He pleases, or on judgment. God forces them to own this, that He may call in the Gentiles; as God says in Hosea, “and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God.” Romans 9:25 is the call of the Jews, and verse 26 the call of the Gentiles. Verse 25 calls the Jews from the Lo-ruhamah and the Lo-ammi state of Israel. (See Hosea 1:6, 9.) But in verse 26 it is the call of the Gentiles; it being the special and proper privilege indeed of the Gentiles to be called the sons of the living God, but not to be His people as a specific title. Thus in the very place where Lo-ammi was universally applied, the blessed title of the sons of the living God—for indeed it was by spiritual life—became the portion of the called, according to Hosea 1, latter part of verse 10. And this is confirmed by the fact of Peter’s only quoting, in his writing to the dispersed of Israel who believed, the closing part of verse 23 of Hosea 2; the very same that is quoted in Romans 9:25; because Peter refers to the Jews only, and therefore only takes up those who, having been Ammi (my people) had become Lo-ammi (not my people); and though Ruhamah (mercy) had become Lo-ruhamah (no mercy)—but having obtained mercy, have become Ammi and Ruhamah, which they will continue to be in the millennium, after being as a nation brought back to God. While Paul, speaking of the Gentiles as well as the Jews, quotes in Romans 9:26, the latter part of Hosea 1:10 also; “and it shall come to pass in that place,” etc.; so that these verses are taken by Paul to shew the whole bearing of the argument as to the calling of Jews and Gentiles, as well as peculiar mercy to Israel. In verse 27, Isaiah is introduced, clearly shewing the actual setting aside of the people as a body by the judgment of God, whatever mercy might be in store for them.
To us, all this is very simple, having become familiar to our minds; but to them, it must have been a tremendous and inexplicable thing that God’s people should be set aside as to the actual administration of God’s government on the earth. While God has no earthly people, He gives up the earth, as to immediate law (while providentially watching over events, of course). While Israel were God’s people, on the earth, there was a direct interference of God as to executive government on the earth; but now God is not dealing with His people on the earth as for the earth, but as a heavenly people—a mystery. God’s power was shewn on the earth, but now God has given up the government of a people on the earth, and taken up a heavenly people— “blest with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places in Christ.” Israel for a season is set aside; and Christ, the only door by which any can be saved, being exalted on high, the calling is that of a distinct people, not for the earth, but for heaven; and therefore the word is, “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” The idea of Christ having members on earth while He, the Head, is in heaven, no Jew would have understood; and before the Jew will own this in his conscience, they must be brought to see that they have been cut off for rejecting their Messiah. And the earth also is guilty; as having rejected God’s Son; and for this, God, “will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” Well, dear friends, are you prepared for God to make a short work on the earth? But we know it will not be till after the last elect one of the church is gathered in; and if we are “keeping the word of his patience,” He will keep us from the hour of temptation; and, meanwhile, He has set before us an open door, that no one can shut. In verse 32, “they sought it not by faith” — “Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness: wherefore? because they sought it not by faith.” Israel did not keep the law; and when the object of faith came, Him they crucified, so that, although to Israel the promises were given, we have seen how they were forfeited by them, as far as their title went to the promise. And here is the wonderful wisdom of God shewn out in bringing failing Israel, and the poor Gentile dogs, both in alike on the ground of sovereign grace. One had not got the promise, the other refused it when presented to them in Christ; so that both should be objects of mere mercy.
In principle, all these great truths are for our own souls. The history of the world is the history of an individual soul. And God has taken pains to detail elaborately that wherein we may read ourselves as in a glass, and see that we are shut up to grace; and having come to that, nothing can separate us from the love of God. It depends on sovereign goodness; therefore I lean on what God is for me, and not on what I am for God. The moment our souls are brought to God, we find that Christ has more than overcome in love and put away all the evil we have learnt of ourselves, bringing His love into it. The ways, purposes, counsels, and power of God for man can never fail.
The Lord give us understanding, a divine understanding, of all His thoughts and ways; and let not our thoughts and affections be running out after the world, that does not know Him, nor yet the hidden mystery which He reveals to those who love Him; but may our hearts and souls know God Himself in all these things! They are precious and valuable, because they are the various parts which make up the glory of the Lord Jesus: therefore valuable because they belong to Him.
56 Revised Notes of a Lecture delivered in Davies Street, London.
57 At verse 9, the proper rendering is, “this word is of promise, at this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son.”
58 Though we have here the general analogy of mediatorial intervention, remark here the difference of that of which it was a shadow. Christ is gone up because He has made a perfect and effectual atonement, the efficacy of which He presents on high so as to secure our blessing; that, of course, Moses could not do. There is no “peradventure I shall” for us; He has made it before He went up to God to appear in His presence for us.